FALSE – Untitled

FALSE - Untitled LP

I can trace my growth from a casual metal fan to a diehard longhair to the summer of 2011. I had just started my love affair with Ludicra when they abruptly decided to call it quits. Upset and confused, I began scouring the internet to fill the forward-thinking, black hole in my heart. A whole new world of music was brought to my attention, a cavernous pit of talent in which I had simply never put forth the effort to explore. But among this wealth of incredible music reaching me, one band had a singularly profound effect. While looking into a relatively new distro and vinyl label called Gilead Media, I started to hear some buzz about a shadowy collective from the Midwest. Despite the fact they had only two recorded songs, the way people wrote about them made me feel like I was witnessing the birth of something special, something that only comes along every decade or so. And indeed, they are.

I obsessively listened to those two tracks from the Untitled EP over and over, finding hidden nuance upon every return. Just 24 minutes of music, they contained endless hours of exploration an ever-changing personal meaning.The next year found me reacting much the same way with “Heavy as a Church Tower”, the single longform track they contributed to a split with Barghest. What followed was almost three years of silence. For a time when fans have grown used to bands issuing updates on an almost hourly basis, this felt like an eternity. It wouldn’t have been at all unexpected for FALSE to quietly disband after a few years of seeming inactivity, but having seen them live and witnessing their passion and dedication, I refused to believe they were finished.

So finally, here we are. A proper FALSE full-length, and one of epic proportions. This new Untitled work more than doubles their back catalog in both time and total number of tracks, and it was absolutely worth the wait. Without making any drastic changes to their formula, the music is as engrossing and intense as before. But this time it’s a proper journey into gorgeous extremity, rather than just a foray. The result is a breathtaking bombardment on all the senses. While any attempt at categorization couldn’t possibly do their unique sound justice, I like to view the Minneapolis sextet as the perfect bridge between the upper echelon of the Second Wave and nuanced USBM experimentation. For those of us who speak names like Emperor and Weakling in hushed, reverent tones there is no din more exciting than the one FALSE creates. Grandiose, thrilling, and relentless, Untitled is ultimately a testament to how beautiful sheer extremity can be.

This album contains everything I love about black metal, and metal as a whole. Densely layered, unrelenting, abrasive, yet containing just enough rounded edges and gripping melodies to keep a sense of humanity to it all. It’s not singularly riffs, atmosphere or composition that make FALSE masters of their craft. They masterfully rely on a balance of all their tools to arrange their assault. The choice to record the guitars and drums live perfectly captures their intensity and dedication to an undoctored, natural sound. Hearing a breath taken before a torrent of fiery screams pour forth or the untriggered bass drums as they speed along along only adds to the drama. The way Untitled was recorded is as close to experiencing FALSE live show as one can get, though nothing will ever be that powerful. There’s hardly a moment’s respite as they race at a breakneck pace through the five tracks; only when a masterful tempo shift or brief intro is inserted do FALSE give themselves or the listener a chance to take a breath. And that’s part of what makes Untitled so utterly brilliant.

It’s rare that the initial hype of a new band ever flourishes into something long-lasting or meaningful, but FALSE are so far beyond what a normal group is capable of that in this case it’s unsurprising. I’ve waited patiently for a full release and now that it’s here it’s almost overpowering, overwhelming. Their style of unrelenting, aggressively beautiful black metal has grown stronger as they’ve aged and this hour of attention-demanding sonic beauty is unlike any other. With this flawless full-length FALSE prove they are a force to be reckoned with, peerless, and one of the most important bands of the decade.

The Ice Age Returns

Istapp

One of 2010’s best albums was the debut of Swedish melodic black metallers Istapp. Blekinge is a catchy, icy romp that pays homage to the countrymen’s history of black metal with an ear for melody. It wasn’t a typical release for Metal Blade Records, but instead of marketing that fact the label offered the band little to no promotion and then promptly dropped them when the album didn’t sell well.

I had assumed that was it for Istapp but now, five years later, it seems the band has reformed as a duo and is set to release their follow-up on Trollzorn Records. Frostbiten has been completely recorded, and the band offered a sneak peak. It’s very similar to what they were doing before, but such a triumphant sound is very worthy of more exploration. I’ll be sure to keep you updated when more information or music comes available.

Battle Metal

Battle Metal

Singing of the glory of battle and the triumphs of war is a trope as old as metal itself. But for a small group of bands, war is a daily occurrence. Right now around the world there are metal fans and musicians alike living in countries torn apart by unrelenting carnage. But instead of being consumed by the horrors and hardship, they channel their emotions into the art they create.

Ukraine’s most influential metal band is back after their longest gap between albums. A Furrow Cut Short is set for release on April 20th, marking the first time Drudkh has gone more than two years without new material since they formed. “Till Foreign Ground Shall Cover Eyes” is available for streaming, and it sees the band returning to their more hypnotic mid-period sound as opposed to the post-rock leanings of late.

 

The same day as their Ukranian brethren put out the above, their biggest proteges in Khors are also releasing an album dedicated to their country’s current hardships. Oddly, there has been absolutely no press release from the band or label about the new album called Night Falls Onto The Fronts of Ours but the track “Following The Ways of Blood” is available for streaming and purchase. The layered, majestic take on black metal sounds like a true return to form.

1,000 miles south of the fighting in Eastern Ukraine rages one of the longest and most horrific civil wars in modern history. Syria has been consumed by battles between the government and various rebel factions, including the now infamous Islamic State and the Al Qaeda backed Al-Nusra. What started as a group of protests during the Arab Spring quickly became a bloody quagmire with no end in sight four years later. But surprisingly there is still something of a metal scene in the war-torn region. A group of metalheads led by 24-year-old Monzer Darwish have been documenting how their lives have been changed by the fighting, and the struggle to keep playing music as a distraction to the horrors around them. An extended trailer for the documentary, Syrian Metal Is War, was posted at the beginning of February. Worryingly, the video has since been removed from Youtube and there has been no word from the filmmakers since then. Attempts to contact them via social media and email have been met with silence.

Until we learn their fate, we can still support their cause by checking out some of the bands featured in the film. Netherion play a slick, modern form of death metal saturated with lyrics filled with frustration and sadness about the current state of their country. Duo Theoria play epic, atmospheric black metal that fits perfectly into the style that The Alchemist’s Cave is based on. That both of these bands wrote and recorded full albums in the midst of war is a stunning testament to their will and the all-consuming power of heavy metal.